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Godzilla: Tokyo Clash Crushes It - Review

Hot
MB Updated June 25, 2020
 
4.0
 
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Godzilla: Tokyo Clash Crushes It - Review

Game Information

Publisher
Players
2 - 4
There Will Be Games

One of the worst board games I’ve ever played was a Godzilla game- the late Richard Berg’s Godzilla: Kaiju World Wars was a tremendous misfire executed by a designer who pretty clearly just didn’t really understand what the Kaiju thing was all about and also didn’t bother to turn in a complete, coherent set of rules to the publisher prior to printing. Apparently a complete overhaul of the rules was eventually released but I just went back to off-brand offerings like Avalon Hill’s classic Monsters Menace America and Garfield’s oddly everlasting King of Tokyo to get my kaiju kicks. 

Now, as a lifelong Godzilla fan, I must admit that I am particularly demanding about what I want out of a game set among Toho’s fabled stable of rubbery rompers.  But it also ain’t hard to meet my rider. There’s got to be a good roster of monsters, tanks, stupid lightning cannons that don’t’really do anything, massive property damage, and for bonus points, Xiliens. Prospero Hall’s new joint issued in partnership with Funko Games, Godzilla: Tokyo Clash, meets my demands. It’s a fun, obnoxious B-list game that doesn’t sport a terribly sophisticated set of mechanisms but makes up for its fairly ho-hum wrasslin’ match format with Godzilla throwing Mothra into a skyscraper , jets screaming in to tickle King Ghidorah with barely effective missiles, and Megalon busting up out of the ground and levelling the block  And as if the bonus for the Xiliens wasn’t enough, they also put a Jet Jaguar cameo in there. This is a game made by Godzilla fans, for Godzilla fans and the love shows through.

Table presence is awesome- this is a wonderful production presented at a very respectful and reasonable $35 retail. You get four big, chunky figures and some fun plastic buildings – it’s a shame that the vehicles and small buildings are just meager tokens, really printed too dark for legibility, but there again - $35 retail. The graphic design incorporates untranslated Japanese typography, which nicely honors the cultural origins of the kaiju phenomenon. The illustrations are all lovely- painterly images rather than photos. With the city tiles laid out and everything in place, it’s the kind of game that screams fun in your face, which is really kind of rude, so it’s a good thing it delivers on its promise.

It’s a straight-up, card-driven brawl. It doesn’t really feel skirmish-y, as each player just has one figure. Turns are just playing a card and doing whatever it says – move, attack, special actions. Everything requires energy, which you have to gain by wrecking buildings or vehicles. I’m always worried about these low model count brawlers, that they’ll turn into players sitting in the middle of the board and pummeling each other, but having to back off to eat some buildings solves this problem. The larger buildings also give a bonus, such as pulling a card from discard or looking at another player’s top card. The small buildings, each of which is worth 2 energy, also key to the game’s timer. If the Oxygen Destroyer marker ever crosses the number of small buildings placed on the timeline, it’s instantly over.

I especially like how the damage works in the game – it’s  a “cards as health” mechanism. When you damage a Kaiju, its player might have a defense card in hand to play. Any unblocked damage translates to drawing cards off the top of the damaged Kaiju’s deck. The cards all have a Dominance value of 0-3, the attacker gets to keep the highest value card drawn as a Trophy – and that means points at the end of the game. So the more damage that isn’t soaked, the more cards you draw and the better your chances are of getting one of the higher value cards. The winner is the Kaiju who has the highest value of Dominance at the end of the game.

I also really like how events are incorporated into the design. Each game, you pick two big event cards and these represent the non-player elements. This is where the Xiliens show up, zipping around in their UFO and zapping cards out of players’ hands, at least until somebody decides to throw their ship into a power plant. There also tanks that move around and attack everybody but Mothra, trains that move along rails, ships, and jets. None of these make a huge impact on the game, but they are fun and that is what this game prioritizes over anything else. 

And that means that this all plays out pretty much exactly how you would want it to with plenty of delightful touches. There are rules for throwing vehicles, throwing Kaiju, and throwing vehicles at Kaiju. King Ghidorah can charge up his heads and unleash a horrifying Barrage attack. Mothra can die and be reborn as a larva. Godzilla can even do that awful victory dance. This is all great fun. Monsters are never KO’d, they just beat the tar out of each other until the off-board humans get their act together and drop the Oxygen Destroyer, and it takes about 45 minutes for that to happen.

I like this timeframe for this kind of game, with less players this goes down by half. But I’m not convinced that this a game worth playing with less than a full four players; I think you need all four monsters on the board for the natural push-and-pull of it to work without the old “let’s you and him fight” problem of the three player match or the single target of the two player game.  I’m also sort of iffy on the dramatic arc of the design, as it all kind of occurs along a fairly flat curve which can descend into blow-trading predictability, despite the best efforts of those event cards to shake things up.  It doesn’t quite have the intense, fighting game-style depth or mind games that Unmatched, a game of similar format and scope, does and that can make the game feel somewhat thin in comparison.  

But you know what, I don’t watch Godzilla versus Monster Zero or whatever for sophisticated, cerebral drama - I watch them for the moments that this game captures and puts onto the table. The focus here is in the giddy excitement of big, dumb monsters lumbering around and squaring off in the downtown area, and the design is focused squarely on this aspect.  I find that when I start to feel critical about the design or the fact that there are other games in this design space that are ostensibly “better”, my inner child smirks at me and says “really, dude?”


Editor reviews

1 reviews

Rating 
 
4.0
Just plain fun with great production and lots of kaiju love.
MB
Top 10 Reviewer 137 reviews
Michael Barnes (He/Him)
Senior Board Game Reviews Editor

Sometime in the early 1980s, MichaelBarnes’ parents thought it would be a good idea to buy him a board game to keep him busy with some friends during one of those high-pressure, “free” timeshare vacations. It turned out to be a terrible idea, because the game was TSR’s Dungeon! - and the rest, as they say, is history. Michael has been involved with writing professionally about games since 2002, when he busked for store credit writing for Boulder Games’ newsletter. He has written for a number of international hobby gaming periodicals and popular Web sites. From 2004-2008, he was the co-owner of Atlanta Game Factory, a brick-and-mortar retail store. He is currently the co-founder of FortressAT.com and Nohighscores.com as well as the Editor-in-Chief of Miniature Market’s Review Corner feature. He is married with two childen and when he’s not playing some kind of game he enjoys stockpiling trivial information about music, comics and film.

Articles by Michael

Michael Barnes
Senior Board Game Reviews Editor

Articles by Michael

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ubarose's Avatar
ubarose replied the topic: #311383 25 Jun 2020 16:44
I really want to play this. And I really want to play it with Josh Look. Damn this stupid killer virus.
ChristopherMD's Avatar
ChristopherMD replied the topic: #311384 25 Jun 2020 17:01
You had me at Jet Jaguar.
Andi Lennon's Avatar
Andi Lennon replied the topic: #311386 25 Jun 2020 19:39
Oh man, I've just convinced myself I need Unmatched:Cobble & Fog, and now this....

This will tie in well with a running joke my friends and I have about Mothra just constantly waiting by the phone for his agent to call.

"Jerry you're killing me here.. I have larvae to feed..."
ubarose's Avatar
ubarose replied the topic: #311392 25 Jun 2020 20:50
Mothra just constantly waiting by the phone for her agent to call.

Mothra’s Queen of the Monsters.
Sagrilarus's Avatar
Sagrilarus replied the topic: #311393 25 Jun 2020 21:47

also didn’t bother to turn in a complete, coherent set of rules to the publisher prior to printing.


From Richard Berg? No!
Andi Lennon's Avatar
Andi Lennon replied the topic: #311394 25 Jun 2020 22:17

ubarose wrote: Mothra just constantly waiting by the phone for her agent to call.

Mothra’s Queen of the Monsters.


Of course! I'm an idiot.
Josh Look's Avatar
Josh Look replied the topic: #311439 27 Jun 2020 17:08
I just played it and I don’t want to jump to conclusions but I think I’m pretty disappointed.

At the very least, I think there are some caveats to how you play it that, of course, make enjoying it something of a trial by fire. I’m not sure if it’s really a 2 player game, which IS essential criteria for a Kaiju game for me. I like the concept of the King of the Monsters token, but in practice it’s kind of a rich get richer thing. In a 2 player game it’s damn near impossible for it to change hands by the end of the round. If you do play 2 player, Mothra makes the game extremely boring and SLOW. In fact, I think there might be enough unbalanced bullshit with Mothra that I’m not sure I’d want her in anything other than a 4 player game. And while I also love how damage works, it does lead to having fewer options as the game winds down, and even with a 45 minute playtime, I’m never a fan of that.

Everything Michael praises is spot on though. It is a remarkably intelligent game and is not a big dumb monster brawl, which as some of you know is the same case in my Kaiju game, but the depth makes the missteps all the more frustrating.

I’ll definitely play again, there’s a lot I do like, but my first play was kind of a frustrating mess.
jpat's Avatar
jpat replied the topic: #314834 05 Oct 2020 11:10
My wife and I just picked this up and tried it last night. I kind of agree, so far, with both "sides" here in terms of strengths and shortcomings. It's a generous package at $35, and yet the dark tones of the tiles, vehicles, and small buildings are genuine playability issues, and I found myself yearning even for Monopoly-style houses to throw. The rules are generally OK but lack a certain level of polish in terms of anticipating likely player questions, particularly around fighting, throwing, and damage. (For one thing, it seems odd in a mass-market game that they wouldn't stress the point that the monsters don't have hit points. This didn't confuse me, though some aspects around throwing did, but it was a contrary-to-expectations moment.) We had a decent time, but it's probably better at four, as has been said (also true for Monsters Menace America, though we have some house rules that make things a little better at two).
Josh Look's Avatar
Josh Look replied the topic: #314835 05 Oct 2020 12:27
I've been able to play it multiplayer since my first post and I'm coming clean: I HATE THIS GAME.

It has some interesting ideas as far as no HP and instead collecting cards from opponents for VPs and yet I can't think of a single choice made that was the right one. Every turn feels like I'm just doing something because I can, not because I want to, or I'm doing something because I have to. I just do not care about anything going on for the entire duration of the game. It needed that investment that comes from the idea that I can defeat you when I attack you, not that it's going to net me points. Plus it has playability issues, any game with Mothra is boring and too long, the throwing rules blow, and the math in the VP to damage outputs is completely fucked.

I love Godzilla but there's no two way about it, this is a terrible game. It's more than a stumble for Prospero Hall, it's garbage.
Vysetron's Avatar
Vysetron replied the topic: #314906 08 Oct 2020 08:50
100% what Josh said. Ditched this after 1.5 plays and no that's not a typo. It lifts a bunch of its design decisions from better games without understand how any of them actually work, and the result is an overwrought mess that is absolutely no fun in motion.
WadeMonnig's Avatar
WadeMonnig replied the topic: #314966 10 Oct 2020 07:16
*sings* Oh, no. Josh says it's got to go. Go~go~Godzilla.
Jackwraith's Avatar
Jackwraith replied the topic: #319136 11 Feb 2021 15:26
Mild threadomancy:

MB, was wondering if your opinion had changed in the intervening months, especially given Josh's visceral rejection of the game (and Vysetron's, whose opinion I also respect.) It showed up in the ad column on BGG for me today and I noticed that it's been listed essentially at cost (i.e. half of MSRP) by Amazon for the past six months, which usually means a clunker that they're trying to clear out. Does it still seem worth it or did you run into the same cited problems? Is replayability still there? As you say, it seems like a nice visual design, at minimum, for less than $20. Of course, no one knows what Prospero Hall is doing these days (I saw someone on BGG say they're doing "spec work for Funko"), so no telling if this will get any expansions for more beasties to play or if it's just a one-off like Jaws.
Michael Barnes's Avatar
Michael Barnes replied the topic: #319188 12 Feb 2021 19:01
I dunno, I still liked it when it came back to the table a couple of months ago...it is a pretty shaky design and Mothra is definitely unbalanced but we still had fun with it. There are some aspects of it that are a little tentative but are great ideas, like how the military/aliens come into play.

I mean, it’s a $20 (probably $10 now) mass market beat em up game...I think it’s worth the price. But like a lot of these titles, they have a strong first impact and not what I would call a long shelf life. All of these games from that run of PH/Funko stuff that I reviewed well and still really like, but I can totally see where some folks see them as limited in shelf life. Villainous would be the one big exception to that, it really has legs. And a new expansion with the freakin’ Horned King in it.
Jackwraith's Avatar
Jackwraith replied the topic: #319194 12 Feb 2021 22:09
Thanks. Good to hear that it was still worthwhile when you got back to it. I agree that Villainous is the one that has real lasting power. I just wish I could convince more of my locals that that was true. I was geeked to hear about the new xpac, too, but I suspect it will struggle to see the table like the rest of them. Villainous seems to struggle from the Root problem. It needs regular players who are familiar with all or most of the decks to really hit it. That's part of the appeal of Godzilla, in that the system is right there in front of you the whole time.